Ideas

Introducing Meditations

A Personal Story about Meditation

Dear follower of my blog.

I’d like to share a personal story with you to accompany an announcement that I am publishing a series of guided meditation audio files on my blog.

A few years ago I went through a period of time that we could roughly label as ‘depression’. That’s when my first encounter with the modern Australian mental healthcare system occurred.

With the well-intentioned advice of loved ones, I sought assistance from the medical system with my ‘depression’ as a set of medical ‘symptoms’.

With the guidance of a GP, I tried two antidepressants- Agomelatine (for about a month and a half) and an SNRI (for about 5 days).

I’m going to put it bluntly for my audience. To be clear- I respect that some (or even many) people do find antidepressants to be life-savers (and I don’t dispute the history of how SSRIs came to be and their effectiveness in some contexts), but for me, the realms of consciousness visited under the influence of antidepressants were the most harrowing and terrifying that I’d ever experienced in my life.

In some moments I sat there, immobilised, weeping with terror beyond anything I’d experienced before or since. Under their influence I experienced suicidal thoughts far more than had ever visited my mind before or since, and it felt very out of control and chaotic.

In retrospect I can clearly establish that for me antidepressants warped and numbed and confused my emotions and thoughts in ways that made things much worse. But since the fog had already descended really deeply, it became really unclear what was helping and what was not.

I kept hearing the messaging from the medical community to “hold on”, “it’ll get better as the medication sets in”. “You’re in a wilderness. We have to try several of them. We’ll find the right one for you”.

But it never did.

Then one day I made a judgement call that helped me a lot:

  1. I got off the medication, fully and immediately (*I’m not saying other people should do that, but that’s the choice I made).
  2. I engaged in ‘depression’ using a more psychotherapeutic model- that of understanding feelings the needs they represent, that of seeking personal and introspective insight.
  3. I deepened my mindfulness and meditation practice to a degree I’d never embraced previously, that’s what this post is about today.

Strengthening Daily Practice

I had already been meditating daily for several years and understood the value of meditation in my life. Now it was time to deepen and trust in this mechanism I already knew.

Every day I would simply sit there, on a chair, somewhere, and do absolutely nothing for a full 30-60 minutes while following a guided meditation course.

No matter how I felt, no matter what was alive in me, I simply and radically embraced and surrendered to the full portfolio of emotions of life.

There were times when the fog and darkness was really deep, and I just sat with it and observed it.

There were times when the sunlight was out, and I sat with it and observed it.

There were times when I felt lonely, or tired, or sad, or dejected. Whatever it was, I was going to sit with it, with or without any attendant resistance, embracing, observing, and simply being with- all of it, without judgement or even basic analysis.

I would follow guided meditations from the Waking Up app by Sam Harris. I learned and deepened my understanding of the non-dual style of meditation (which is fully atheist/secular- this was important to me).

As time went on, I learned to trust in my own mind’s ability to soothe itself. I learned to trust that my nervous system is capable of calming itself down without my interference- in fact, it might calm down faster when I cease to interfere.

I rarely experienced panic attacks, but when I did, I simply bored into the feeling with my raw attention. In the moment of a panic attack the intellect has already failed to soothe the mind. There’s nothing you left to do except simply feel it, closely, without rejection.

I learned that 5 minutes after the worst moment of your life, by definition, the worst moment of your life was already over, and it’s only the ruminating thoughts that might keep you trapped within it.

None of these mindfulness or meditation practices existed in conflict with genuine efforts to improve my circumstances through acting in my life. I still worked at my personal life- including all sorts of things like diet, exercise, social contact, therapy, etc. but the point is there was a simple foundation of plain awareness surrounding all of those activities.

Publishing Meditation Sessions

After several years of this habit of 30-60 minutes per day, I finished the all the courses in the app and started to come up with my own, novel meditation sessions made from my own experience with the practice, in a unique style that borrows strongly from the nondual style of the Waking Up app, but also has a bit of my own creativity and observations mixed in with it.

Now finally, I’m going to share some of those guided sessions on my blog as a permanent link with a growing portfolio of meditation sessions. You can view them here: https://shawnpowrie.com/meditations/

This has a list of durations and links to some folders containing the audio files. I’ll be posting more in future as I create them.

I’d invite anyone who hasn’t tried meditation to give it a shot and learn more about it. Meditation is highly paradoxical, and is not just a matter of understanding more concepts. The difference between actual meditation experience and the theory/concepts of meditation is the same as the difference between actually running a marathon or merely intellectualising about it on the sidelines- it’s quite stark.

My meditations are generally designed for people with a bit more experience in meditation. If you’re just starting out, I’d suggest trying the Waking Up app for free and completing the introductory course first. I warmly recommend this app, all of what I’m publishing is directly inspired by it and its style.

Fast forward to today, I’m pleased to share that I’ve been well. Many of my daily meditation sessions are quite beautiful and blissful. But that doesn’t actually matter, nor is it even an argument in favour of it. It just is. And I’m grateful for it.

Shawn – May 2024

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